March 28, 2011
Posted by Joan V. Gallos
Today’s my 30th wedding anniversary, and it feels appropriate to toast the day by musing about the similarities between a good marriage and good leadership.
Learning about both has been a work in progress for me; and the wisdom in a short article on wedding toasts in a local magazine, The Hills, caught my eye as relevant to the task.
So with a tip of the hat to its author, clinical psychologist Michael Seabaugh – and apologies if my applications, interpretations, and edits push beyond his intent – I share a few of his toasts.
They’re intended to keep a marriage on track, but they’ll also work to sustain the strong interpersonal bonds at the heart of good leadership. Leadership is, after all, the product of a relationship between leader and follower that is based on shared commitment, mutual respect, openness to learning, and passion for a common goal. Sounds a lot like a good marriage to me!
May you find delight and growth in constant conversation. We learn about others when we talk openly and regularly with them – and about how they are growing and changing. It’s especially important to continue the dialogue when we’re hurt, angry, busy, or sure we know it all – the very times we are most apt to pull back.
May you always know the supreme value of paying attention and paying respect. All relationships require tending. We respect others when we give them our time.
May you always listen. Making assumptions about others is human nature, but any couples counselor knows it is also one of the biggest spoilers of a good marriage. Seabaugh has a favorite quote from George Bernard Shaw on this: “Do NOT do unto others as you would that they should do unto you. Their tastes may not be the same.”
May you always remember that your individual problems will always be your collective problem. This is a basic truth in teamwork and a tenet in systems theory. Heed the advice to refrain from telling your partner “That’s your problem.”
May you never forget that curiosity is always better than defensiveness. Ask for an explanation and listen. You may learn something important about the situation, your partner, and yourself. Let me tell you, it’s not easy but it’s a skill worth developing.
May you always have the good sense to find interesting what your partner finds interesting. An open mind and a willingness to experiment have the added benefit of expanding your world.
May you always remember the value of laughing at each other’s jokes, of maintaining a sense of humor about your own and your mate’s foibles, and of finding shared laughter in your observations of the world. Wear life loosely and cultivate a strong sense of humor. Both will serve you well in love and in work.
Happy anniversary, Lee!